A ship with 81 people aboard, 64 of whom were rescued off war-torn Libya, has asked Malta for permission to seek shelter from inclement weather.
The humanitarian vessel headed towards Malta on Saturday after it was refused entry in Lampedusa. Malta was the next safe harbour for the Alan Kurdi, and the NGO Sea-Eye has since then been calling for protection from rough weather.
The ship now remains in international waters outside Malta.
When contacted, a spokeswoman said the Armed Forces of Malta had no updates about the issue in what appears to be another protracted migrants' saga.
The European Commission has meanwhile urged EU member states to find a solution to the impasse so that the migrants may disembark safely.
Both Italy and Malta have refused it a safe harbour, leaving the migrants sleeping in cramped conditions.
On Friday afternoon, Italy finally agreed to evacuate two children with their mothers for humanitarian reasons, but they refused to airlift the fathers.
Bad weather on the horizon
On Monday, a Sea-Eye spokesman told Times of Malta that the weather was expected to take a turn for the worse and will remain so for several hours.
“The captain has requested permission to approach Malta to seek weather protection. Malta communicates with us very strictly, but is not hostile. This gives us hope that a humanitarian solution can be found quickly,” Gorden Isler said.
If permission to enter a Maltese port is not granted by Monday night, the vessel will need urgent drinking water and food supplies.
The current stand-off has forced the NGO to cancel its upcoming mission and as a result, no ship in the Libyan search-and-rescue zone is likely to search for people in distress, the spokesman warned.
He explained there were currently 81 people on board the Alan Kurdi, 64 of whom had “gone through hell” in the form of torture, rape, human trafficking and murder.
Most of them are now sleeping on deck.
“They are cold, wet, and freezing. These people need help quickly. Our crew is also exposed to increased stress. This situation must be stopped right now because it endangers the health of 81 people,” he said.
The spokesman hit back at critics who accused the NGO of deliberately getting itself in trouble, many of whom acknowledge that Libya is facing a "challenging situation".
“So why are we the only ones willing to search for people in distress? International law should be respected and not misinterpreted."
The money pumped by Europe into the expansion of the Libyan Coast Guard could possibly exacerbate the problem.
If the war in Libya persisted and got worse, the number of those in distress would increase, Mr Isler warned.
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